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Federal judge upholds Chesapeake Bay EPA regulation

A judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] acted within its authority to work with six states and Washington, DC, in promulgating the Final Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Sediment (TMDL) [agency materials], an agency regulation designed to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay by more tightly regulating wastewater treatment, construction along waterways and agricultural runoff. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) [advocacy website] initially filed suit [complaint, PDF] in 2011, alleging that the TMDL "unlawfully circumvented" the Clean Water Act (CWA) [text, PDF], which gives primary authority to state governments to protect water quality. Judge Sylvia Rambo held [AP report] that the TMDL did not violate the CWA because the EPA and the states all agreed to it, and the states were given the flexibility to decide how to meet the limits.

Agricultural runoff [EPA materials], such as animal waste and fertilizer, is the single largest source of pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay. To date, more than 47,000 water pollution-reduction plans have been completed throughout the United States, and the Chesapeake Bay plan is the largest and most complex so far. Efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay water quality were initiated in 1983 with the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement [text, PDF], signed by the governors of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, the mayor of Washington, DC, and the head of the EPA. However, it was not until 2000 that concrete steps were taken towards establishment of a pollution-reduction program with the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement [text, PDF], then signed by the governors of Virgina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, the mayor of Washington, D.C., the head of the EPA, and the newly created Chesapeake Bay Commission [advocacy website]. In 2002, the states of New York, Delaware and West Virginia joined the agreement by a Memorandum of Understanding [text,PDF]. All the signatory entities agreed to establish a pollution-reduction program by May 1, 2011, and to reach the targeted limits by 2025.

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